Bush Picks Look Wobbly on Warming

by William Yeatman on December 26, 2000

in Politics

So far President-Elect George W. Bushs nominees for top positions look wobbly on global warming. Bush has chosen Christine Todd Whitman as his administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Whitman, as Governor of New Jersey, rarely stood up against the demands of environmental activists and has been at the forefront of pushing Kyoto-style policies. Indeed, New Jersey was the first state “to commit voluntarily to a specific [greenhouse gas] reduction.”

“New Jersey has set an ambitious goal to not only curb greenhouse gas emissions, but to reduce them,” said Whitman. “Our target for 2005 is a 3.5 percent reduction below the 1990 levels.

“The fact is that climate change associated with greenhouse gases has an effect on every aspect of our daily lives. The environmental and economic benefits that stem from controlling greenhouse gases are enormous.”

Tom Bray in OpinionJournal.com (December 26, 2000) noted a number of environmental issues in which Whitman is out of the conservative mainstream, including strong support for the precautionary principle.

“We must acknowledge,” said Whitman, “that uncertainty is inherent in managing natural resources, recognize it is usually easier to prevent environmental damage than to repair it later, and shift the burden of proof away from those advocating protection toward those proposing an action that may be harmful.”

Bushs nominee for Treasury Secretary, Paul ONeill, CEO of aluminum manufacturer Alcoa, has also taken several dubious positions on energy use.

As noted by the New York Times (December 20, 2000), “Mr. ONeill participated in at least two sessions with President Clinton as part of a corporate advisory body convened to discuss global warming. Participants in one 1997 meeting described Mr. ONeill as more willing to consider steps to tackle global warming than most of his corporate counterparts, but more skeptical about global warming trends than some Clinton administration officials.”

ONeill claims he has criticized the administration for exaggerating the global warming threat. “I said to him [President Clinton], Im just astounded that he and the Vice President keep saying that the Grand Forks flood and El Nio and these severe weather events are somehow related to global warming. Theres not a scintilla of scientific evidence to connect those things. It damages his ability to lead when he exaggerates what no reputable scientist would agree to” (Wall Street Journal, December 27, 2000).

On the other hand, ONeill has long advocated higher energy prices. In 1992 he advised the Bush Administration to raise the gasoline tax by 50 cents a gallon. “It certainly has been clear to me, and has been for a long time, that we need a gasoline tax,” he said.

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